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Redeveloped Apollo House office block could soon house 60 homeless people

Campaigners who occupied an empty office block to shelter homeless people have said it could house about 60 people in the next 48 hours.

Apollo House in central Dublin accommodated more than 30 rough sleepers on Sunday night after volunteers from the Home Sweet Home group opened the doors.

The former civil service office block in Poolbeg Street was occupied late last week by the campaigners, whose supporters include actor Saoirse Ronan, director Jim Sheridan and musicians Christy Moore, Glen Hansard, Hozier, Damien Dempsey, Liam O Maonlai and others.

Volunteer health workers, tradesmen and others arranged water supplies, heat and electricity, with kitchens being fitted along with showers and bedrooms for individuals and couples.

They said they reached capacity on Tuesday.

Co-founder of Home Sweet Home, Brendan Ogle, said: "What we were trying to do is equip the building rather than bring in people and find ourselves swamped.

"We have decided based on advice from various agencies that we are going to scale back and hold it at 30 or so for now."

A spokesman for the Irish Housing Network, which is also supporting the action, said: "The goal is to offer people the highest level of support that we can, and we can only do that with the capacity we have.

"We are not equipped to take people in who come to the building, but we will continue to work with the Dublin soup runs to try and link people up with services and help people however we can, and when we increase our capacity we will bring in new residents through the soup kitchens."

The building is controlled by receivers. A planning application has been made to Dublin City Council for the redevelopment of the ageing site, along with a neighbouring building, Hawkins House.

A&L Goodbody solicitors, which is acting for the receivers of the empty office block, is understood to be considering a meeting with the Home Sweet Home group. They insist the office block should be vacated for health and safety reasons.

Mr Ogle said the loans on the building were held by Nama and the site appeared "big, dark and completely miserable" before the occupation began.

"We took the view that this building should be put to use," he said.

"If the Government won't use them then the citizens have decided they will. We would like to keep it open until the Government does its job and houses the homeless people."

Official figures show 1,023 families were in homeless accommodation in greater Dublin at the end of November - three fewer than the previous month.

The report by Housing Minister Simon Coveney's office also found 1,368 mothers or fathers with 2,110 children had no home.

Some 780 families with 1,608 children were forced to shelter in hotels.

The Home Sweet Home volunteers are currently finalising work to double capacity to around 60 while also planning to timetable meal times in the building. Mental health support staff are understood to be on hand along with others medics.

They appealed for volunteer support staff, including anyone with experience in social care or medical work, to make contact via Facebook and they also urged chef managers to help.

The centre does not allow drugs or alcohol and t here is security.

Organisers have said they were overwhelmed by contributions from the public and businesses with fridge-freezers, cookers and televisions installed.

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